Do you fancy going hunting on Boxing Day to support your local hunt, but don’t know where to start? Horse & Hound offers some tips on how to go about it, including who to contact and how to prepare.
It’s important that you and your horse enjoy the day. If you have a good experience, hopefully you will want to go out with hounds again so don’t overload yourself with concerns about buying new equipment or getting everything right — everybody has to start somewhere.
There will be plenty of people out hunting who are able to offer advice so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what is going on or where you should be.
If you don’t know which is your local pack, take a look at the websites of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (www.mfha.org.uk) or the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (www.amhb.org.uk) where you can search by county. Details of some Boxing Day meets will also be available on the Countryside Alliance website (www.countryside-alliance.org.uk).
Who to contact
Once you have decided which pack you wish to visit, contact the hunt secretary. Contact details are usually available on the hunt’s own website, or sometimes they have a Facebook page. The secretary will be able to advise you the location and time of the meet, the cap (how much it will cost) and usually where you may be able to park your horsebox or trailer on the day.
Never been hunting, but would love to have a go? H&H explains how to get started and answers your questions…
What to wear
Make sure you, your horse and your tack are clean and tidy. Although plaiting is not compulsory, manes should be short and neat, and if you have a particularly hairy horse, it might be worth considering getting him clipped. Hunting tack and equipment is generally quite conservative so try to find a brown, black or white numnah and limit the amount of bling (although tinsel on a browband on Boxing Day is acceptable with most packs).
A tweed hacking jacket or a black or navy jacket is desirable, with a coloured or plain hunting tie (stock) and pale breeches with leather boots or smart short boots and half-chaps.
How to prepare your horse
Although there is no set amount of time you need to stay out, the chances are you will enjoy it once you get there so make sure your horse is fit enough to make all the effort worthwhile.
You may consider using a stronger bit than you would usually for hacking, just to give yourself some extra brakes if required.
Jumping is not compulsory and there is usually an alternative non-jumping route for those who prefer to avoid obstacles.
On the day
Arrive in plenty of time. Travel tacked up with a rug if needed, and a headcollar over the top of your bridle if you can to save unnecessary hassle when you park. It’s quite common for horses to perk up at the sound of hounds in the vicinity and you might end up in a battle trying to put the bridle on.
As soon as you get to the meet, find the hunt secretary to introduce yourself and pay your daily cap. Ask who the field master will be so you know who to follow and take notice of any particular instructions given throughout the day.
But most importantly — enjoy yourself! We hope you and your horse have a fantastic time.